A distilled spirit is an alcoholic beverage in which the concentration of ethyl alcohol has been increased above that of the original fermented mixture, by a method called distillation. Dating back to the ancient Greeks, people have been making potent spirits for recreational and medicinal purposes for centuries.
Much like craft beer has become hugely popular among the hipster crowds and older generations alike, craft spirit distilling is gaining momentum in the culinary world and among spirit connoisseurs around the globe. Though today’s new craft distilleries use cutting-edge equipment to make their spirits, the process remains the same — separating ethanol from water.
Whether rum, vodka, whiskey, bourbon, gin or tequila is your drink of choice, distillery tours have become a unique alternative to a typical Friday night out. Guests get a behind-the-scenes look at how their favorite spirits are made with the added bonus of sampling the product.
We’ve rounded up a list of some of the best distilleries around — some young and some old.
Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont, Kentucky
Dating back seven generations, Jim Beam American Stillhouse is located on Kentucky’s famous bourbon trail and offers a glimpse into how the world’s number one bourbon is made. During the tour, guests participate firsthand in the bourbon production process, right down to bottling their own Jim Beam product. Guided tours last half an hour and include a tasting. For those looking for the ultimate bourbon experience, you can meet the company’s master distiller and great-grandson of Jim Beam himself and enjoy a bourbon-themed meal and premium tasting for a price tag of $199.
Death’s Door Spirits in Washington Island, Wisconsin
With a population of just 700, Washington Island is home to Death’s Door Spirits. The distillery gets its name from the small water passage that separates the island from the mainland. The distillery is part of Washington Island Brands, a group that promotes Washington Island wheat that is sustainably grown. Death’s Door liquors use ingredients from local farmers, and spirit offerings include gin, vodka, whiskey and wondermint schnapps liqueur.
Ketel One in Schiedam, Netherlands
The Nolet family has been producing Ketel One vodka for over 300 years. The intricate process is focused on the details and truly is a family affair — right down to tasting the finished product to ensure the stamp of approval. Located about an hour from Amsterdam, the Nolet Family Distillery offers tours focused on the company’s skill, vision and craftsmanship that goes into Ketel One. Tourists can also take in a viewing of the award-winning documentary about the Nolet family. Now run by Carel Nolet and his sons, the family’s longstanding passion for the highest-quality product, along with an unsurpassed work ethic, is evident in Ketel One’s popularity, including its 2.5 million cases shipped to the U.S. annually.
The Noble Experiment in Brooklyn, New York
Among the many things that make this New York distillery unique is that it is owned by a woman in a largely male-dominated industry. Prior to opening The Noble Experiment, Bridget Firtle worked at a hedge fund. Building her distillery from the ground up, Firtle has achieved her dream of bringing the timeless tradition of rum distilling back to the Big Apple. The company aims to produce the highest-quality distilled spirits that are as distinct as the Big Apple itself, using only domestic ingredients. Its signature Owney’s NYC Rum is a local favorite. Self-guided and hosted tours of the distillery are available.